2005. As winter begins to taper off and the daylight
hours increase, I sit down with my “to-do” list and
realize that it, too, has lengthened quite appreciably. At the onset
of this farming experience, I remember hearing that little voice
of many a veteran farmer whispering “the work begins with
the coming of the sun, and isn’t finished until the light
of day wanes.” I, however, was determined not to let time
beat me into submission. I had my days planned out with great scrupulousness,
and I was going to explore these mountain ranges that hover in the
distance at least once a week.
Again, I come face to face with my tendency to live in a state
of idealism. The romantic mind paints a glorious picture that is
often far removed from reality. However, I am quickly learning to
accept the fact that with farming things don’t always play
out as envisioned, there are too many variables. I am convinced
that the number-one quality a successful farmer must possess is
patience. There are simply not enough hours in a given day to accomplish
all one wishes. Inevitably, something else will come up that must
be tended to. Farmer Bob from across the road will pull up a bucket
and commence to talkin’ and spittin’. So the “to-do”
list spills over into the next day, and soon that day off is nothing
but a fading notion.
However, when you are doing something that you love, the sacrifices
are incredibly worth it. There have been many an opportunity to
remember why it is I put in these long days. The reminder comes
with the bursts of laughter as I notice Mocha, one of my goats,
chewing cud, cheeks bulging, goofy expression lingering. It is in
the sunrise as I walk into the morning light, hands numb from the
brutal cold, but soon warmed by a toasty goat teat. I also find
it as I sit down, at day’s end, to a meal that consists of
produce from last season, eggs from the hens, and a wonderful bowl
of goat milk yogurt.
Yes, it is quite a blessing to be here finally trying my hand at—what
has become known as a dying occupation—small-scale farming.
It has been a dream I have been working toward for about five years
now. I have put in many hours reading, interning, experimenting
with my own small gardens, wwoofing in Thailand, and coming up with
a plan. Now it is here, and the work, joys, and challenges of starting
a small farm are in full swing.
Last year I moved onto 260 acres that my grandparents own and started
out by testing and amending the soil, then erecting a 7-foot fence
to detour the plethora of deer, elk, and rodents that share the
land with me (however, something still managed to maul my baby sunflowers).
The fence enclosed 1,400 square feet of garden space. I planted
a variety of vegetables, edible flowers, herbs, and raspberries.
At the time I was working as a wilderness therapy counselor, so
I was gone every other week. A drip system took care of the watering
and the blessed wind kept most of the winged marauders away from
my plants. It was always amazing to see how much evolved (weeds
included) while I was away.
The plan for this season is to expand the garden and include a
10 x 60 foot hoop house for growing red bell peppers, tomatoes,
squash, and cucumbers. The hoop house was donated by my grandparents
in exchange for a season’s supply of real tomatoes. They’re
sick of the red, solid, spherically shaped objects that “taste
like cardboard,” which they purchase at the local grocers.
I have also just acquired a flock of 112 laying hens. They will
be housed in 24 feet of the greenhouse and will provide CO2, heat,
and manure for the plants. Most of the produce from the garden will
be sold at the farmers' market, where the competition is obsolete
(last year’s market consisted of a hot dog vendor and a guy
The local health food stores have expressed interest in selling
my produce and eggs as well. From last year’s experiment with
heirlooms that grow well here at 8,000 feet with a short (80 day)
growing season, I have decided to focus on ‘Lacinato’
kale, ‘Green Arrow’ peas, and ‘Five-Color Silverbeet’
chard. I hope to save seeds from these as well as other varieties
that prove themselves fit for this climate.
Right now I am a bit behind schedule as funds are low—the
money from this article will increase my savings to a whopping 100
bucks—and much of my time has been spent renovating an old
school house on the property. I have decided to take a part time
job in town to assist in building up the capital I need to get this
season started. Again, not what I had planned, but we patiently